How to raise socially aware kids

With the presidential election now behind us, a lot of parents are wondering how to talk about the decision with their children.

Set a good example

Raising socially responsible and civically engaged children goes beyond Election Day.

“It’s about teaching your kids that they are part of a community,” Dinizulu says. “That can be their family community, their neighborhood community or their school community.”

Give children of all ages an important role—such as setting the table each night—and explain how everyone in the community has a responsibility to help make the group function a little better.

Moving outside the home, the best way to teach children how to be involved in the world around them is to demonstrate it yourself.

“Kids learn best by example. Parents can say all the right things, but kids are watching very closely to see how they act,” says Roni Cohen-Sandler, clinical psychologist.

Spend an afternoon at the local food pantry, train together for a 5K to raise money for a charity, grow your hair out together and donate it to people with cancer.

“Parents may write a check to a charity and that’s wonderful, but kids don’t see that, they don’t understand it,” Cohen-Sandler says. “Take them along, do it together as a family and show what it really means to give back.”

Why this matters

Voting on dinner choices or watching the news together may seem like small things, but experts say they really will make a difference in how the next generation thinks about the world.

“If you want youth to become socially responsible as adults, we need to start now,” Dinizulu says.

There is also research that shows that kids who are more civically engaged are more likely to vote as adults, and that engagement can also be a method of reducing violence in neighborhoods.

When children feel more connected to their community, they are more invested in what happens there.

“If part of our society suffers, we all suffer,” Marter says. “Teaching kids to be socially responsible encourages them to develop awareness, compassion, initiative, leadership and communication skills that will help them succeed in their relational, career and life goals. And it will help the next generation evolve as a global community.“

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